SYRIA

Raqqa activists slyly defying its jihadist rulers

The Islamic State group has ruled Raqqa with an iron fist since it seized control of the Syrian city more than two years ago, forcing its residents to abide by a radical vision of Islam. But activists, risking almost certain death if caught, are defying the jihadists by putting up posters on storefronts to denounce them.

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The Islamic State group has ruled Raqqa with an iron fist since it seized control of the Syrian city more than two years ago, forcing its residents to abide by a radical vision of Islam. But activists, risking almost certain death if caught, are defying the jihadists by putting up posters on storefronts to denounce them.

These activists belong to a network called 'Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently', a group made up of roughly 15 members spread out across the city and in the surrounding areas. Even before Raqqa fell into the hands of the Islamic State group in March 2013, the network's activists were already protesting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad alongside fighters from the Free Syrian Army [Editor's note: the FSA is one of many rebel groups fighting to overthrow the Syrian government].

On the posters, put up in mid-April in Raqqa, they wrote: "No to the Islamic State group, no to Bashar [al-Assad]. Freedom forever."

An activist slides flyers under the metal shutters of shops in Raqqa. Video posted online by members of "Raqqa is being slaughtered silently".

An activist puts up a flyer and points out that they're "very close to the home of an Islamic State group member".

"We chose a neighbourhood where there's a market in order to reach the maximum number of people"

Abou Ward al-Raqqawi (not his real name) is one of the network's activists who live in Raqqa.

We filmed these videos in one of Raqqa's shopping districts. It was tough to organise. We had to study the movement of the jihadists for several days. We needed to know with certainty when the Islamic State group's patrols would pass through the area, what streets they would take, and locate the surveillance cameras that they've set up around the city.

It only lasted a few minutes. We stuck posters on storefronts and left around 50 more in street. We chose a neighbourhood where there's a market in order to reach the maximum number of people.

For two weeks the jihadist group has been beefing up its patrols. It has also announced a host of new rules: for example they ban people from wearing jeans or drinking energy drinks on the grounds that it goes against Islam.

We hope that this modest act will show the people of Raqqa that despite the Islamic State group's iron grip on the city, there will always be people that aren't scared to tell the jihadists that they aren't welcome here. Maybe it will inspire others, too.

This isn't the first time activists from 'Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently' have dared to challenge the jihadists. In October last year, they had already sprayed anti-IS group graffiti on walls across the city.